2009-04-17 / Letters

Don't Need An 'Inner Gangsta'

Dear Editor,

For the past few years it has been clear that the Rockaways are on the cusp of change, just what that change might look like seems less clear.

That the burgeoning local surf culture looks likely to rule the day is a safe bet, but one hopes that the peninsula would be able to steer away from that "localism," head banger / gang banger, style surf culture and toward something more in line with "aloha spirit' of the initiatives of groups like Stoked Mentoring, the Surfrider Foundation, or Boarder's "Richie Allen Classic."

Instead, with the new surf shop that Bobby Vaughn opened on Beach 116 Street, an alternate vision for our surf community's future seems to be coming into focus.

Speaking about his life and new shop, in an article in the April 5, 2009 N.Y./Region section of the New York Times, Mr. Vaughn tells us that "People get intimidated by the gangster look, but I just want to turn my life around, and to show the street kids here — whether they're surfers or kids from the projects — that they can do it too, he said, detailing his plan to conduct anti-gang initiatives through surfing and skateboarding."

That sounds right, but it remains to be seen whether Mr. Vaughn has any real interest, let alone ability, to conduct anti-gang initiatives; as the Times article continued to remind us that he has said that before only to then find himself "arrested and charged with carrying an unregistered handgun" … to which "he pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge and was sentenced to five years probation, Letters which he is still serving."

I worry that he is instead simply trying to make a buck by addressing (or exploiting) what apparently he considers our community's main problem: "that it has not embraced its inner gangster," as he explained to the Times.

Embracing our "inner gangster" would surely cause, not solve, problems. I imagine the celebrants and shooting victim at the recent sweet sixteen party at the Beach 90 Knights of Columbus would agree with me, as would the family and friends of Officer Russell Timoshenko, or the many innocent victims of crime and shootings on the peninsula.

Certainly it is in the interest of our community that our local stores thrive and prosper, and I wish Mr. Vaughn well with his new enterprise. It would be nice if he could hold similar well wishes for us.


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